Thursday morning federal headlines – Feb. 7, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Workforce problems at the Internal Revenue Service are raising red flags with auditors. The agency has 5,000 fewer employees this tax filing season. Budget cuts forced it to freeze hiring and offer buyouts. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says 40 percent of the remaining folks are eligible to retire within five years. Meanwhile, the agency is trying to crack down on tax fraud and implement the new Affordable Care Act. The healthcare law requires the IRS to build brand-new processes. Auditors say the IRS needs a systematic approach to onboarding to bring newer employees up to speed as quickly as possible. (Treasury)
  • Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committee have proposed an alternative to sequestration. They’ve revived the idea of cutting the federal workforce 10 percent through attrition. Proponents say it would save $85 billion a year. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have introduced corresponding bills. They would let agencies hire only one person for every three who leave. The bills also freeze congressional pay. Congressional Democrats and federal-employee unions panned the proposal. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new House bill would extend a veterans education benefit for a year beyond its scheduled expiration date. It was introduced by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP, currently gives middle-aged, unemployed vets money for career training. It expires March 31. Miller’s bill would extend the benefits to June 2014. Miller says that would give vets enrolled in career education more time to finish. The bill would also require VA to report to Congress on how effective VRAP is at getting vets into jobs. (House)
  • The White House is calling for a second round of tech whizzes to try their hand at government. The Presidential Innovation Fellows program began accepting applications this week. The fellows are programmers and tech entrepreneurs who can shake things up a bit in the bureaucracy. They work at agencies for six to 12 months. Some of the new projects focus on disaster response and recovery tools, improving the MyUSA website for businesses and building an innovation toolkit for federal workers. That last one is supposed to “make government cool again” by giving feds online collaboration tools and how-to libraries. (White House)
  • Saturday stamped mail won’t be the only thing disappearing from the Postal Service under its new cost-cutting plan. So will millions of man hours. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says ending Saturday first class will reduce USPS’ man-hour requirements by the equivalent of 22,500 people. But, Donahoe says, most of that will come by cutting overtime and part-time work. In all, the decision to end Saturday first class mail will save USPS $2 billion a year. But the Postal Service may have a fight on its hands. Two House members are already questioning USPS management’s authority to make the change. (Federal News Radio)
  • The House Oversight Committee is slamming agencies for not updating their rules to comply with laws intended to make it easier and cheaper for Americans to request documents. The committee’s top ranking Republican and Democrat want an explanation from the Justice Department, which oversees Freedom of Information Act compliance. First on the lawmakers’ list of 24 questions: They want to know why the Justice Department itself hasn’t updated its FOIA rules. It’s one of 31 agencies with regulations that are more than a decade old. (House)